Monday, June 23, 2008

Being Your Own Advocate

So recently, I was chatting with a friend who was about to receive an offer of representation from an agent with a good reputation. She and I were emailing about what she wanted to ask this agent and what she felt she could ask this agent. I was detailing my relationship with my own (fabulous) agent to her and saying that everything she was talking to me about, she should be talking to her potential agent about.

And it got me thinking: why we're so hesitant to speak up, pipe up and stick up for ourselves when it comes to agents. As I noted, fortunately, I'm not in this position. My agent and I have an open door policy - nothing is off-limits, and if I have a question, as annoying or ridiculous as it might be, I raise it with her. Not all agents are like this: I recall that Miss Snark was decidedly more autonomous and didn't like to be bugged. Which is totally cool IF you, as her client, are okay with it. If you're not, you either need to be aware of her (and I'm speaking universally here) policies or opt for a different agent.

The important thing is to determine as much of this as possible upfront. Which is why I was urging my friend to pose all of her questions to her potential agent. An agent shouldn't be offended by your due diligence; if anything, it should demonstrate to him or her that you take your career seriously and are looking out for number one. Which is exactly what you need to do to get ahead in this business. No one, not even the best of agents, cares about your career more than you do, and one of the surest ways to get ahead - or give yourself a chance to get ahead - is to surround yourself with people whom you trust. And if you don't feel comfortable asking critical questions from the get-go, you've set yourself up for not asking more critical questions (or getting critical answers) down the road.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that you hold some of the power here! If an agent wants to rep you, he or she wants to rep you! Regardless of if you ask some probing questions. Don't forget that. I've never heard of an offer being rescinded because an author ask what was on his or her mind, but I have heard of authors making informed decisions (either way) based on the answers they were given.


Therese Walsh said...

Excellent advice!

Gail said...

I totally agree, Allison! And I have an agent I chat with openly and very regularly and find that relationship invaluable!!!

Eileen said...

I also lucked out in the agent department-and we did have a very upfront discussion when she made me the offer. I talked about what I was looking for in terms of communication style etc.

Too often I think we're so excited to have some interest in our work we leap before we look.